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MP Antti Kaikkonen (ALDE) in the Council of Europe, Strasbourg, 25th June 2013:

The Situation in the Middle East

This is not the first time the Parliamentary Assembly is having a discussion about the situation in the Middle East. Since the adoption of the latest resolution in 2010, the peace process in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has not progressed as hoped. Therefore this discussion is a very important one. We must overcome the possible fatigue and try our hardest to resolve the situation in the Middle East.

This report outlines a solution to the conflict in a clear manner: “two States for two peoples,” or better yet “the two democratic and pluralist States” model that is based on the 1967 borders, with limited and mutually agreed land swaps. This solution can be fully supported. I am pleased with the latter definition of the two democratic and pluralist states. In this definition also the rights of the minorities living in Palestine and Israel have been taken to account.

I took part on the delegation visiting Jordan and Palestine last April, organized by Sub-Committee on Middle-East. After numerous informative meetings with representatives from both sides I realized that above all, we must now be realists. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has lasted for decades and thus the solution cannot be expected to be made over night. Therefore I welcome the approach stated in the report: if a permanent solution cannot be found in a short term, then also interim arrangements can be made. This kind of a pragmatic approach can very well lead to a more permanent and comprehensive solution in the future. Permanent peace is found only trough trust and the smaller steps can help creating it.

In addition, it is crucial that we understand and stress the importance of the United States in the peace process. I believe that it is the U.S. who at the moment holds the key to the conflict resolution. Europe’s role is to support the U.S. in its efforts. A comprehensive economic plan for the West Bank announced last month by the U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is highly welcomed and necessary to combat the high unemployment rate at the region. As Mr Kerry has said, improving lives and expectations for Palestinians, many of whom are young and unemployed, is crucial for building an independent Palestinian state at peace with neighboring Israel.

There are also external issues that affect the Israeli-Palestinian relations. Perhaps one of the most alarming one is the civil war in Syria. The report describes that the civil war has already killed almost 100 000 people. More than 1.2 million are living abroad in refugee camps and there are several million displaced people inside the boarders of Syria. Furthermore it seems that also chemical weapons have been used in combats. The international community must react to the situation with more power than it has before. Even military means should be considered if other methods fail. Bringing the combats to an end is crucial not only for the Syrian people but also for the stability of the whole region, including Israel and Palestine.

In conclusion, I must support Mr Marcenaro’s conclusions and the adoption of the draft resolution. The model of two democratic and pluralist states serves the aspirations of both parties; Israel’s right to be recognised and the right to live in safety, as well as Palestinian’s right to have an independent state. The Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly should continue to promote dialogue and build confidence between the two parties in order to find viable and long lasting solutions for peace. Furthermore the Council of Europe should encourage and promote the role of the U.S. in the peace process.